Wellington Square opened on the site at 335 Wellington Street in downtown London on November 1st, 1960 as the first enclosed mall in Canada, and the first enclosed downtown mall in North America.. It featured a five story Eaton's, a Woolworths, was 400,000 square feet, and had rooftop parking. The site at Wellington and King Streets was once a McCleary factory.
The 1960 floor plan for Wellington Square. It occupied what is now the lower level, southern portion of Galleria London.
Wellington Square, and downtown London, had the run of retail in the area until 1971 when Westmount and 1973 when White Oaks malls open as suburban competition for Wellington Square. By the late 1970s, as provincial control on retail expansion began to loosen, both areas would begin to drain retail sales out of the Wellington Square area.
Once London abandoned it's city master plan limiting retail expansion, Wellington Square began to lose momentum due to the traditional limitations of downtown shopping: traffic, convenience, and location. In 1980, The five story Eaton's closed, then re-opened as a scaled down store. Still, the "Eaton Centre" as it was called, was a chronic under performer.
In 1986, Canadian mall giant Campeau rebuilt Wellington Square into Galleria London from the ground up. During the two year reconstruction, only Eaton's, the Elephant and Castle eatery, and Bi-Way remained open. The Galleria was expanded from 70 stores to 120, and an additional 500,000 square feet were added on to what was tenatively called "London Square". The square has a racetrack design on the upper level with two pedestrian bridges over King Street, and a 1500 space underground parking garage. The project cost $150 million Canadian in 1987 dollars, and ultimately led Campeau into bankruptcy. In 1996, Galleria London, according to surveys the fifth worst performing mall in all of Ontario, is purchased from RHK for $46 million Canadian by a real estate consortium managed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
From the 1989 rebuild, Eaton's and The Bay anchored the Galleria London. However, the property itself, which features 120 spaces for stores and two anchors in a square that occupied two blocks and included two walkways over King Street, struggled to maintain tenants as the economy in the area declined. The Galleria itself took a lot of business from the surrounding business district, draining downtown London of some of it's vibrancy. 30 years of poor planning on the part of London Regional Council didn't help either.
The 1997 bankruptcy filing of Eaton's didn't help matters. The story of Eaton's is in and of itself fascinating, and if you have the chance, you should read about it here: http://archives.cbc.ca/IDCC-1-69-377-2361/life_society/eatons/. As Eaton's failed to evolve, blaming the Canadian economy in the early 90s, then later NAFTA and it's allowance of American retailers into the marketplace, and the business community in London continued to worsen, the Galleria began hemorrhaging tenants. When Eaton's filed for bankruptcy reorganization in February, the plan was to close 31 of 85 stores, including the one in Galleria London, which averaged sales of only $35 per square foot in a 100,000 square foot store in 1996.
Eaton's store did close, but the external signage and window dressings remained in the property until early 2000, when the entire chain was shuttered.
The Bay remained as the sole anchor in the Galleria London until March of 2001, then it too closed it's location at the Galleria. A large majority of retail tenants fled thereafter.
Of the 120 spaces, approximately 20 retail establishments remain. However, The Bay's anchor property was sold to the London Public Library for $5.8 million Canadian in February of 2001. The former Eaton's property was converted into offices, and renamed, somewhat ironically, Wellington Square. The Wellington Square portion of the property houses Honeywell, Tele Tech telemarketing, and Stephenson & Sons Insurance. This is impressive, as the economy of London is such that the city has not added any office space over the last 10 years, yet the former Eaton's property is somewhat successful by real estate standards.
Maps of the Street and Second Levels of Galleria London, built on the former Wellington Square site in 1986, and reopened in early 1989.
Galleria London serves downtown London as a mixed use property. The London Public Library has significant facilities in the former Bay location, a fitness center thrives, several doctors offices occupy space, a bargain Rainbow Cinemas flourishes there where a Cineplex Odeon once stood, and the University of Western Ontario's Continuing Studies program is housed there as well. There is foot traffic, and the food court is moderately successful. As a mall in the traditional sense, however, Galleria London's days are over. For the London region, the White Oaks mall, nearer Highway 401, and with more tenants, parking, and better anchors, is king of retail.
The three story London Public Library, located on the northern end of the property. This was once The Bay.
Looking west on the upper level from near the library entrance.
A shot from the upper level, southeast portion of the mall near the entrance to the former Eaton's location.
An upper level view near the York Street (East) entrance.
The upper level, former entrance to Eaton's.
Lower level, York Street entrance. This is near the Elephant and Castle, the only tenant remaining from the Wellington Square days. Goodlife Fitness occupies the entire lower level of the mall, and is fairly popular, by all accounts.
As you walk past Elephant and Castle, the barren state of retail at this mall begins to set in.
Another portion of the Eaton's space is being converted to classrooms.
Elevators, fountains, and lights, just like every other mall. These elevators brought people to and from the parking garage, and let off in front of the former Bay store.
A shot of the ceiling architecture, looking West from the library.
The Canada Trust/Toronto Dominion Bank towers visible from the roof of the northeast portion of the mall.
Check out a book, have lunch at Burger King, and get a Prostate exam, all in the same mall.
The food court walkway over King Street. This picture faces West (The east side of the Galleria).
Wellington Square sits on the former Eaton's store space. The first floor windows used to house displays for Eaton's, and are now frosted over for office use. This is the South side of the mall, facing York Street. This is also a remodel of the original Eaton's that sat on Wellington Square throughout the 1960s.
A second walkway over King Street. This is the other side of the Galleria. The Continuing Studies Program of Western Ontario University exists in part of the former Eaton's property.
The London Public Library purchased the former The Bay store in 2001 for $5.8 million Canadian, and did an extensive remodel of the interior. However, the label scar of The Bay still remains on the upper concrete, as evidenced above.
A second look at the former The Bay store, renovated and reopened as the main branch of the London, Ontario Public Library.